An Underage DUI Requires Serious Attention
A charge for driving under the influence is always a serious situation no matter what state you live in. Every state takes DUIs seriously and imposes stiff penalties. However, you could face even harsher sentences and consequences if you receive your DUI charge when you are under the age of 21.
In all states, you must be 21 years old to legally buy, possess and use alcohol. Anyone who is not 21 or older faces the potential for an underage DUI if he or she uses alcohol and gets behind the wheel.
An underage DUI charge is something the court will not go lightly on. If you face such a charge, you will need to have a competent and experienced attorney by your side to help you navigate the legal system and put forth your best case.
What Is an Underage DUI?
An underage DUI occurs when you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you are not yet 21 years old. The age is important since it is illegal to obtain, possess our publicly use alcohol when you are not 21 years old.
Some states call it driving while intoxicated or DWI instead of driving under the influence or DUI. The different names do not have any influence on the impact of the charges; they mean the exact same thing for you. You should recognize that a DUI is not just a traffic infraction. It is a criminal charge. You will end up with a misdemeanor or felony charge on your criminal record.
Some states do set a blood alcohol content limit for underage drivers, while others have zero tolerance laws. Essentially, they both mean the same thing because the underage BAC limits are usually so low that the use of any alcohol would result in going over the limit.
For adult drivers over the age of 21, the BAC limit in all states is 0.08%. For underage drivers, any detectable alcohol in your system is grounds for a DUI charge. The law gives you no chance to consume any alcohol and get behind the wheel. It is not possible, despite the state laws that do set a BAC limit, to drive after drinking and not face an underage DUI if an officer pulls you over or you have an accident.
Should you be involved in a traffic stop or incident, the officer will have you take a breath test to determine your BAC. You can refuse to take this test, but the officer can then place you under arrest immediately. In most states, when you get your driver’s license, you sign a paper that states you will submit to such a test or face arrest.
What Are the Penalties?
In most cases, when an officer pulls you over for a suspected DUI, you will end up under arrest. The officer will have someone tow away your vehicle, and it will go into impound. You will go to jail.
Eventually, you will have to go to court to face your charges. If the court finds you guilty or you plead guilty, you will face a range of potential penalties:
- Loss of your driver’s license
- Jail time
- Community Service
- Alcohol treatment
The sentences for underage DUI are typically strict, yet they serve as a lesson more than harsh punishment. If this is your first charge, you probably will not have to go to jail. The worst of the sentence will likely be the financial costs. Fines can be hefty. Plus, you may have to pay court costs, and you will need to pay impound and towing fees to get your vehicle back.
Keep in mind that if you have had an underage DUI in the past, you will face harsher penalties. The court will often impose higher fines, longer jail time and stricter terms as a part of your sentence for an additional DUI.
Beyond the penalties the court will impose upon you, you will have to deal with the additional consequences of a DUI on your criminal record. If you are in college or want to go to college, you could face disciplinary action from your school, which might involve your school kicking you out or admissions deciding not to accept you. You also may lose out on scholarship opportunities because some require a clean criminal record.
A DUI charge will also stay on your record. Employers will see it in background checks, which could impact your ability to get a job. Future landlords may see it on your record and refuse to rent to you. It also will make your auto insurance rates higher.
You may also face consequences in your relationships. It can put a strain on things with your family and friends. It may even end relationships.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Securing an attorney is one of the first things you should after your arrest. You need to have someone on your side who can explain the legal aspects of the situation to you.
It will make a significant difference in the results of your case when you understand your state laws. Since the laws regarding DUIs and DWIs vary so greatly from state to state, you have to be sure you choose an attorney who understands the law in your area.
Your attorney can assist you with putting together your case to prove your innocence or to help minimize the charges against you or get a reduced sentence.
Your attorney is also helpful in the aftermath. He or she may be able to help you expunge the charge from your criminal record so that it cannot haunt you for years to come.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
If you have charges pending against you, there is no time to waste in securing an attorney. You should hire someone today who can ensure the proper handling of your case. Submit a request online or call us today at 866-345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!